Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Heading South from Burgos. Part Two of our Recent Portugal Adventure

Sercotel Cuidad Burgos.
From Burgos and south through Valladolid, Salamanca, and  Plasencia to Portugal.

After the guided mystery tour via Satnav to the centre of Burgos with its tall, elegant buildings - in a rush hour - and then having a helpful Spanish Senor directing us to our excellent Sercotel Cuidad Burgos hotel in Rubena, after an excellent dinner and a huge G&T, we were all set for the next leg of our journey through central Spain. Making a note to 'come again' for the excellent Wi-Fi reception and facilities - not least the said G&T - we loaded up and headed south west towards Valladolid before turning south  to Salamanca.

Don't the very names instantly conjure up an image of a romantic, ancient Spain in days gone by with dark-eyed Senors riding their stallions while dark-haired beautiful Senoras and Senoritas toiled in the  home and on the land as they waited for their men to come home?

It was still a dull and windy morning but today was, hopefully, a shorter day before we reached our destination. The land was flatter - or so it appeared - but in reality we were on the plateau of Central Spain. The view, from our position almost touching the clouds, stretched for miles. We found a small fuel station with a café. It was  most unlike the large ones nearer the more inhabited parts we had just come through but clean and cheap.  A coffee doble con leche (double coffee with milk) and cold drink was an astounding three euros.

Heading towards Salamanca, the terrain changed as we came down from the plateau. Gentler mountains came into view. Verdant mountains covered in trees and many kinds of vegetation. The roadsides were awash with masses of yellow broom.               Further on, this gave way to the centre reservations stretching for miles with brightly coloured red, pink, or white shrubs. Amidst the sweeping pastures, a lone church rose high into the sky. Its tall spire almost reaching the clouds as it surveyed and laid claim to the scattered inhabitants surrounding it. Eventually, at Plasencia, we turned west towards Portugal. In my planning I had marked out that we would go south west for a bit longer and head towards Cuidad Rodrigo before dropping south. However, our helpful lady with her disembodied voice, politely commanded us to head towards Plasencia.
It is interesting how, in Spain, the address of a place list the road (carretera) and the numbers of kilometres along it depending from where it started. This number is used for the junction. See example.

Trusting the Satnav.

My husband asked that we paid attention to the 'lady' as she seemed to know what she was doing. I had to agree as, this later model we had just traded in the old one for most certainly did know what she was dong but I bartered for the return journey to be via Cuidad Rodrigo. Harmony was restored. We were now the very heart of a country area and needed some refreshments. Lunch called but a snack would do. Taking a chance we followed a sign off the newly made road and turned off to what seemed to be the old road. Here there was a modern filling station - for the car - and a modern café for filling us. It did appear that the café had been extended to include a restaurant, no doubt for all the extra traffic with the road improvements, of which there are many.
We found a wonderful light snack of a slice of tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette with potatoes) each with drinks at the Meson Iberico Casa Marco on the National 630 KM371 in Fresno Alhandiga. A glass of vino tinto, small Coca Cola and 2xPinco (our snack) came to the grand total of four euros forty cents including tax. Can't complain at that!

Refreshed we headed towards the Portuguese border and our destination. The road leads you around two sides of a triangle which surround a huge reservoir - the Emblase de Alcantara - fed by the many rivers which flow down the surrounding mountains. Fortunately, the road had been extended at Coria to by-pass the village of Moraleja and link the two sides of the triangle, which lightened the journey. Crossing the border is seamless with excellent signs and no change in road conditions.

Handling the toll booths.

As this was an A-B journey on motorways we were aware that we would be paying tolls. During our recent visit, we had used a hire car and Europcar advised that if we were heading near Castelo Branco there would be not only unmanned tolls but automatic tolls where cameras at the side of the road simply pinged as it captured your number plate and billed on your card later. We had taken advantage of the transponder fitted in the car so that we didn't have to worry about this and could simply sail through the other toll barriers as well. Now, for this journey,we had invested in a transponder for both France and Spain (we weren't using motorways in Portugal) from Tolltickets in Germany. It was the best thing we have ever done. In France, the lane with a letter t - the telepeage - was for normally for those with a French bank account. We had often seen wagons using these lanes but now this facility had been opened up to those outside France. I mention this as it may help some of you who were not aware of this change. In fact, the number of toll lanes sporting the letter 't' had increased with some having  a 30km sign where you didn't actually come to a stop before the camera flashed and the barrier lifted; it was not for card or cash payment and were not manned. In Spain the sign was like a t-shirt. Each transponder fitted behind the rear view mirror. On our return home, we simply posted them back and we are charged for the time used regardless of what we had stated on the order form.  Hope this helps! It was so easy with no fumbling for buttons when the lanes were unmanned.

Next  time, I will chat about  a most beautiful place where they have thermal springs. Montfortinho and Termes de Montfortinho near the Portuguese/Spanish border and a most delightful, traditional hotel with all mod cons.

Rosalie xx

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Stunning Mountains of Pais Vasco - Basque Country

Basque Country.

Our recent journey to Portugal took us through France - thankfully after the fuel strikes - to the Pyrenees where we crossed the border into Spain along with the heavy traffic. The weather was atrocious but had improved once got past Limoges about half-way down.

As the outline of the Pyrenees came into view, they gradually loomed nearer, taller, more majestic.
"Oh, look at those peaks." I reprised my comment on first seeing grey, snow-covered mountains as we made our way south from Foix to Andorra all those years ago. "Aren't they pretty?" I had commented then from my perch on the back of our Gold Wing motorbike.
"Yes," my husband laughed in agreement at the memory. "Until you get closer and they start closing in." (1)
Now, I sat and admired these verdant slopes. At this end - the west - they are somewhat gentler Driving at steady speed past Bayonne, we crossed the border into Spain.

What majesty awaited us.

We had planned a journey across Northern Spain on the motorbike some years ago but it did not materialise. Driving to Central Portugal on our 'family mission' was a great opportunity to capture some of what we had missed. Crossing the border into Pais Vasco or Basque Country heading towards Burgos in Castilla Leon.
The mountains are astounding. Great high needles of granite rose high into the sky. The  
motorway network is a feat of engineering as we rode high above deep valleys and ravines below, wound our way through gorges and swept effortlessly round bends in a never-ending succession of mile after mile of extremely good roads.

As we climbed higher into the mountains - don't forget that the centre of Spain is on a high plateau which fools you into thinking that you are on lower, flatter ground - the weather developed into what can only be described as atrocious and not the sort that you want to be out in when driving through mountains with a sheer drop on one side. At times we could hardly see, even with the wipers working furiously to clear the rain and the spray being thrown up from the massive wheels of lorries as we passed. From time to time the rain eased but the clouds hung low. We were thankful of the excellent service stations in this area and their excellent choice of hot meals or simply a snack.

Nearing Burgos, I just knew that we would have another mystery tour. And so it proved. OH said that he had input the hotel details correctly but even so, we ended up in the centre of the city - not Rubena on the outskirts and just off the motorway.

Our return journey through this area was in gorgeous weather. The sunshine provided us with good photo opportunities as I snapped away through the - by now dirty windscreen - at the jagged peaks of the mountains. The signposts were also in Basque language as well as Spanish. Quite an education.

Next - our journey south through Valladolid, Salamanca, and  Plasencia as we came off the plateau and headed into Portugal.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Focus on - Preparing for an Event

Checkpoints for planning the venue.


  • Is it accessible to everyone?
  • Is it in the same building or off site?
  • Will you have to pay a hire cost?
  • Is it easily accessible for bringing in any equipment?
  • If off site, how far away from the entrance is the car park?
  • Can you offload before parking up?
  • Will there be lots of steps into the building?
  • Once in the building will there be stairs to negotiate or will there be a lift?
  • Will there be someone to help you?Is a trolley available or do you need your own?
  • Is the room suitable for the number of people to be present? (Sometimes also called delegates.)
  • Can you arrange the tables as you want to?
  • Are there tables and chairs as standard?
  • If not who will organise them?


  • Where are the power points or plug sockets?
  • Will you need an extension lead?
  • Will this be provided? (The toolkit of a speaker can be extensive.)
  • If you are using PowerPoint, is there  a screen? Video projector? Is there a remote control? Do you have a remote mouse for your computer?

Recording attendees.

You will need some kind of registration of participants on arrival. This could simply be an A4 sheet with room for name, company/department, and contact details. This should conform to health and safety in the case of a fire or any issues arising afterwards. It also gives you record of attendance.


Will you have a badge for each delegate to wear?
If it is a round-the table-meeting will you have a tent card on which each of the delegates can write their name? These will face outwards and are so useful. The back (the side facing the delegate) of course will have your company logo, name and contact details printed on it. A small but effective marketing tool, especially as people often like to take things away with them.

Promoting the Event.

If this is an inter-departmental or class event, you will probably only need to advertise internally among your colleagues. A simple outline will suffice; something to ensure that the ones you expect to attend, actually do attend.
It may be that you are holding a talk/presentation of an open kind within your organisation. You will need to plan and produce some posters and/or flyers to post around the building. Keep these simple and to the point. You could include a photo of yourself and another relevant image. (If you are undertaking a course of study, this may count towards some aspect of it e.g. communication evidence as long as it is relevant and fit for purpose.)
For something more formal or wide reaching, you may even be putting up posters around your village or town wherever you think is suitable. e.g., Community Centre, Library, Student Common Room.
Who will pay for this? Do you have the facilities and/or expertise? Do you have to find someone to help you?


  • Will drinking water be available? Is it needed? Sometimes there is a water fountain. You the speaker will need to have at least a bottle of water and a glass handy in case you get dry. Taking a sip of water can also serve to buy you some time in order to gather your thoughts, calm your nerves, especially if you have been asked an awkward question.
  • Will coffee be available?
  • Is it needed? If people have travelled, it is quite usual to provide this.
  • Who will pay for it? Even in colleges, the catering department will make a charge.
  • Who will deliver it to the room?
  • If you are hiring a venue, is the cost of coffee included in the room hire?
  • Will you just have coffee on arrival? Alternatively, will you just have a break halfway through the session?
Other things to take into consideration emerge when planning larger, formal events. As this book is mainly to concentrate on preparing for a talk/presentation in both formal and informal settings and ‘getting the message across’ we will not stray too far from the main topic.


You will need to be aware of the fire exits, first aid facilities/first aid kit. The contact number of first aider. If the event is off site, you will need to find out the risk assessment and health& safety policy procedures; are they applicable?
Last but not least, make sure that you send out joining instructions including a map showing the exact location of the venue and entrance / parking etc.

Before the event but not on the day.

In my own experience in running workshops and speaking at events, I always find a checklist essential to ensure that I don’t forget anything. In my later career in writing, I have maintained and adapted this for book events and speaking engagements.
I am happy to share it. You will most likely want to adapt it to suit yourself. I am happy for you to do so.

It looks something like this:

Prep for < here insert the name of event and date>.
  • Banner (s). (To promote who I am, what I write.)
  • Large sheet of cloth material. (I find that the books and marketing material look better when displayed on a black cloth as opposed to a bare table. A single sized bed sheet could suffice.)
  • A5 flyers. (To hand out if applicable.)
  • Your business cards and promotional material such as bookmarks/postcards/ flyers.
  • A3 posters. (They look better on the wall than smaller A4 size.)
  • Books — all titles - or product for demonstration etc.
  • Contact form for e-mail updates to delegates.
  • Sticky tape.
  • Blue Tac. (Handy for putting up posters or other visual aids.)
  • Pens.
  • Float. (A small amount of money for change when I sell a book.) If applicable.
  • Award certificate in holder. If applicable
  • Brochure holders
  • A5 display holders.
  • Book for reading (a passage to the audience). If a book event.
  • Reading/speaking notes.
  • Camera. (I put photos on my website. You might need evidence for your CPD Portfolio.)
  • Net book and lead. Mouse or remote mouse.
  • USB Memory Stick. (With a copy of your presentation loaded.)
  • Extension lead.
  • Overhead projector. (If applicable)
  • Mobile phone.
  • That is quite a lot to think about isn’t it?
  • ‘But I am only giving an informal talk,’ I can hear you saying to yourself.

Well, you don’t know what you don’t know until someone tells you and it is better to be informed upfront rather than after the event.
Even a short, informal talk needs to be well prepared and delivered in a professional way. You never know who is present and thinking ahead to where you might go in the organisation or what you could be trained up for. You do want to give a good impression don’t you?
Therefore, good communication skills are needed.
(This is an excerpt from Talking the Talk: Getting the Message Across. Follow the links - live in eBooks - at the end for more information. )


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Focus on Digital Publishing - A Workshop.

The Venue: Bangor University. 

Or to be more precise, School of Creative Studies and Media in the College of Arts & Humanities at Bangor University, Gwynedd. ( Phew!)

The Date; Friday, June 3rd, 2016.

Bangor is an old University city - the oldest city in Wales - with buildings full of gorgeous architecture going back many hundreds of years. Bangor University was founded in 1884.
Over recent years the University has expanded ; it is actually dominant in the centre of the city and straddles old winding streets, the main one being College Street.

Eventually finding my destination I was appreciative of the technology in the seminar room. Not only the technology but the entrancing picture postcard view out of the window, which, from our top floor room, gave us an uninterrupted view of the Menai Straits with boats bobbing on the water and hill rising in the distance. However do students concentrate when there is such beauty on which to feast your eyes?

I had been invited, by Dr. Eben Muse and Dr. Lyle Skains, to attend a practical half-day workshop, "Publishing the Future: The Digital Marketplace (for publishers)."  It preceded the two-day conference "The Future Space of Bookselling" at the Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre in Bangor. Unfortunately, I was unable to register on this but from the topics covered in the workshop, I truly wish that I had been able to.

Digital Concepts.

Initially, I and the other delegates were treated to the history of the Internet and World Wide Web along with some of the basics of HTML coding. Moving on, my eyes were opened wide at the influx of information about the developments and possibilities of the digital revolution taking place. I have long been an advocate of eBooks as an alternative reading medium of choice and know something about the interactive content. (We are working to re-format our more technical Lifelong Learning Guides into Kindle EDU which is based on a *pdf layout and more suited as the original complex formatting is preserved. There is the facility to add interactive videos and images.) But the scope of new developments is something else again.

Rights Management.

  • Copyright is a topic which exercises the mind. It was interesting to hear its origins which can be traced back to Queen Anne. 
  • Digital Right Management (DRM) is another topic which is fiercely debated - to wrap in DRM or not. Listening to the arguments, I have to say that my views have shifted somewhat.
  • Creative Commons Licensing is a far wider topic than I had hitherto been aware of different provisions. It is important, though, to be aware that it does not infringe on copyright. They allow fair use by others within the terms of the particular license but copyright stays with the originator.
I would have liked to delve into this topic in more detail. Perhaps a workshop or webinar devoted to Rights Management is a thought for the future.

After meeting my patient husband for a late lunch, we enjoyed the views over the Menai Straits from the easily accessible Antelope Pub on the bridge (old) after which we crossed onto Anglesey, to the famous village of  
Llanfairpwllgwngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllantysiliogogogoch where we strolled around the shops in the old railway station. I was strong-minded but OH was easily persuaded to takes advantage of the discounts in the gentleman's department.  Driving back through the ever-changing scenery of Snowdonia, we chose a route down the A5 through Betws-y-Coed where we stopped for a cool drink and ice-cream. 

Rosalie xx

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Focus on Christal Publishing

Time to focus on the publishing side of my work.

It has been quiet of late but we are back with a bang. In the meantime there have been many developments in the distribution side of publishing and I though that it was time to bring them all together on our updated website.


The website itself was forced to go through a huge updating as our US host Website Builder had made many changes to their interface. As part of our website plan with Ricks Cheap Domains we have a search engine optimization (SEO) produst with many tools and analytics for effective marketing.

Global Print and Distribution.

Print and pdf digital formats are powered by Lightning Source - a leader in print on demand technology - part of the Ingram Content Group who offer integrated print, digital, wholesale and distribution services worldwide.
Other digital formats are handles primarily bo other US companies. Read more here in this extract from the About Us page of Christal Publishing website.

About Christal Publishing.[Extract]

Formed to publish books written with a burning need to share  profound, emotional, travel adventures (on a motorbike) and to make learning accessible for those who could not attend formal courses but, in order to realise their potential and enhance their future , needed to fill gaps in life skills and experiences. All aspects of editing, formatting, book interior and jacket design are undertaken in-house to meet a variety of submission criteria.
For the best possible reading experience and to reach a global readership, we offer all titles in print and multiple e-book formats. All illustrations - photos, tables, charts, diagrams - are in full colour in eBooks.
Print Distribution. All books are print to order (print on demand from a single copy upwards) with Lightning Source - part of the Ingram Content Group. The books are printed  using high quality, acid-free paper from responsible sources. The Ingram Book Group global distribution services reach booksellers, libraries, schools, Internet commerce companies and other partners around the world. Lightning Source have printing facilities in the  UK Lightning Source, US, Australia, and Europe. In addition there are global print and distribution partnerships around the world which cuts shipping costs. Currently (May 2016) these include Brazil. Germany, India, Poland, Russia, Italy, and South Korea. In the UK, Gardners Books (which includes Askews and Holt, and Browns Books for Students), is the main distributor to booksellers, schools, and libraries.
Digital Distribution. At Christal Publishing, we believe that reader choice is paramount. Therefore all titles are converted and re-formatted into multiple formats for most reading devices.
Kindle.  All titles are available in the Amazon Kindle store. The Lifelong Learning series of books will shortly be converted to the new Kindle EDU (Education section) format which converts to Kindle from *pdf meaning that the original technical layout is preserved. (Planned date September 

ePub and other formats. USA global digital distributor Smashwords ships the ePub format to booksellers such as Apple, Kobo, Nook, and libraries worldwide. In the UK Gardners Books have partnered with Smashwords. Other formats including ePub, Mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb,html  are available to download from the Smashwords store.
PDF  The pdf format is distributed for download at booksellers and libraries worldwide. It is also available from Google Play.   

 Rosalie xx